07 Oct 2014

Take It Or Leave It On Nantucket

It’s been said that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Of course, on Nantucket, one man’s “trash” could in fact hold the equivalent of Santa’s bag on Christmas Eve. The island offers several repositories for this “trash” (of the non-rubbish affiliation of course). The Hospital Thrift Shop welcomes donations of personal and household items. There are a variety of non-profit organizations that seek out gently used clothing and home goods. But one of the most unique and comprehensive collections of donated belongings is creatively displayed at a modest little “boutique” (affectionately referred to by locals as the Madaket Mall) located adjacent to the Nantucket Landfill just off Madaket Road.

Dubbed the island’s Take It or Leave It (TIOLI) for obvious reasons, patrons are invited to leave off their donated goods (everything from clothing to lawn tools, electronics to baby items) – and help themselves to whatever tickles their fancy on any given day. Customers arrive with only the best intentions of decluttering their homes and closets. SUV’s brimming with personal items that didn’t make the cut during the spring clean or end of summer reorganization pull into the TIOLI met by throngs of curious “shoppers” who are happy to assist with unloading in an effort to get first dibs on the coveted merchandise. Relief is felt as the auto is emptied and life is simplified. Then curiosity sets in and the magnetic pull toward the shed of treasures proves too much…and before you know it the “leave it” guy becomes the smiling “take it” guy as he drives off with a couple of rakes, a used paperback and a yoga mat.

I’ve heard many funny TIOLI stories over the years. There’s a local group of women on the island who do an annual holiday exchange and the rule is they are only allowed to shop at the Madaket Mall for their grab bag gifts. On more than one occasion the women report getting their own sweater or flower vase (delivered to the TIOLI months earlier) as their gift. I recently visited a friend’s house and recognized a throw rug I remembered donating a few weeks earlier. When quizzed where it came from, she confirmed she’d found the “treasure” at the TIOLI and we laughed that it looked better in her house than it ever had in mine.

As funny and unusual as it sounds, this local method of “shopping” not only works…it’s a beloved mainstay of the island. A nasty (now de-bunked) rumor circulated for a few days last week that the TIOLI might be closing and it sent panicked shock waves across the island. Although a convenient place to dispose of our giveaways, it’s also a place where many on our island find affordable (meaning FREE) clothing, dishware, personal items and in some cases luxuries that they cannot otherwise afford. It’s a way for islanders to share with friends, neighbors and complete strangers who have needs that aren’t made public. In short…it’s necessary and important to our island life.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of shopping at the Madaket Mall or making a contribution to their always fluid inventory during your Nantucket vacation…it’s never too late. Clean out the closets, re-organize the garage or just declutter the house and head to the Take It or Leave It to dispense of your belongings. As much as you’ll want nothing more than to drive away feeling unshackled…I dare you to browse the aisles and not arrive home without at least one new found treasure.

Give and Take.

Shellie Dunlap


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